Coral Gables High senior Jose Balcazar is the Gables Silver Knight nominee in the area of Speech.
In his high school career Balcazar earned more than 1,500 community service hours, including his time volunteering at Shake-A-Leg Miami. There he worked with disabled children in a water environment.
He is involved in many school clubs ranging from International Baccalaureate Honor Society to Gables Earth.
“I think my most meaningful commitment is with the Youth Advisory Committee at the Children’s Trust,” he said. “We’re students who get together to talk about prominent issues. We try to create events relating to that theme that we can relate to youths.”
Homelessness was last year’s theme. The Youth Advisory Committee partnered with the Chapman Partnership for the Homeless on a program for homeless kids.
“We would go there and interact with the children there,” he said. “It changed my perception of what homelessness is and homelessness can happen to anyone. That was a great experience.”
Committee members also lobby on children’s issues.
“We take an annual trip to Tallahassee for Children’s Week,” Balcazar said. “People think there is not necessarily a way to change it. But we think the best way to change it is to implement programs designed to help people off the streets.”
His strong academics and community service have helped Balcazar win several scholarships, including a Posse scholarship and QuestBridge scholarship that will take him to Davidson College in North Carolina.
He also was awarded the Bonner Scholarship from Davidson, which allows a group of 20 students the opportunity to provide service to the Davidson-Charlotte area and global regions in need.
“I recently was awarded the Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship which is approximately $40,000 a year for the next four years,” he said.
This summer, he’ll spend three weeks in Alaska in a work exchange program, called Wwoof.
“You work in an organic farm and exchange labor for food and housing,” he said.
— Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld